By Betsy Veysman
Five 2011 Eastern States champions took the mat this weekend in Loch Sheldrake, New York looking to repeat their title runs. Only Dylan Palacio did.
The Long Beach senior, who won in the 145 pound class a year ago, stood on top of the podium at 152 on Saturday night. He did it in impressive fashion, cruising to the finals, which he won in a hard fought 8-5 battle with one of the top seniors in the country, Cornell recruit Brian Realbuto.
“Winning Eastern States means a lot to me,” Palacio said. “I went in with the mentality that I was going to win it. Brian [Realbuto] is a great wrestler and I have a lot of respect for him. It was a really great match, a really exciting match and I was happy to be able to put it all out there on the mat.”
The match was tied after two periods, with Realbuto registering an early takedown in the first and Palacio earning two escapes. The third period, however, featured back and forth action and a flurry of points. With less than 20 seconds left and Palacio holding a 6-5 lead, Realbuto got in on a shot that Palacio fought off before notching a takedown of his own at the buzzer.
“My strategy was to not stop wrestling because Brian scores from anywhere,” Palacio said. “I knew I had to hand fight heavy with him. At the end, when I got called for stalling, it took everything I had in my body to kick out of his shot. I knew I didn’t need to score again but when the opportunity was there, I had to take it.”
Palacio said that winning the tournament was one of his goals for the season, but the most important goal is one that has eluded him in his high school career to date. He has yet to win a New York state title in Albany after placing third in 2011 and fourth in 2010.
“I can sum up this season for me easily — one dream, one chance. I have only one chance left to win a state title. Last year I lost to a wrestler I beat easily earlier in the season. I was a little sloppy at times last year, a little wild. Now, I feel like I’m wrestling with controlled aggression. I don’t feel like anyone can match my pace.”
Palacio, who has gone 24-0 this season at 152 and 160 pounds, hasn’t yet settled on a weight class for the remainder of the campaign.
“It’s still up in the air,” he said. “But for Eastern States, I looked at the wrestlers who were coming and I knew if I wanted to be the best, I had to beat the best. I saw that the 152 class was loaded and I knew that was where I wanted to be.”
Palacio, who was a Greco Roman All-American at Junior Nationals in Fargo, North Dakota, is also a standout soccer player. He has not decided on his future college yet, but he said he knows he wants to wrestle at the next level.
With Palacio’s title as well as a championship from 113-pounder Mark Raghunandan, Long Beach took third in the team race with 111.5 points. Wyoming Seminary was the runaway winner with 248 points, 89 more than runner up Shenendehowa. The Plainsmen had a pair of first place finishers in Nick Kelley at 132 and Tony Fusco at 195 as well as three additional placewinners.
Five of Seminary’s wrestlers earned top seeds in the event and all five –Evan Botwin (120), Dom Malone (126), Eric Morris (170), AJ Vizcarrondo (220) and Michael Johnson (285) — captured individual crowns. The Pennsylvania school had six additional medalists, including fifth place finishers Ty White at 138 and Connor Wasson at 182. Jack Walsh was seventh at 145 and three grapplers grabbed eighth for the Knights – Cohl Fulk (152), Ryan McMullan (160) and Matt Doggett (195).
Overall, Wyoming Seminary head coach Scott Green was pleased with his squad’s showing.
“I thought we wrestled well,” he said. “Having five champions at a tournament of this magnitude is certainly gratifying for our program. It was also great to have a lot of our other guys place, especially since it was the first time placing for a few of our guys this year.”
In particular, Green singled out the performance of 220-pound winner Vizcarrondo who earned bonus points in all five of his bouts, including a 14-4 major decision over Greene’s Kyle Stanton in the title match.
“AJ wrestled really well,” he said. “He beat Stanton 1-0 earlier and then won big this time. I feel like he made the adjustments he needed to make to widen the gap and improve.”
Green, who coached in the Empire State at Binghamton University, Oxford High School and the Shamrock Wrestling Club, was excited about bringing his team to the Eastern States Classic for the first time.
“I was at the first Eastern States as a coach and there were teams from New Jersey and Pennsylvania,” he said. “I think the tournament got away from that a little bit, but we were happy to put it on our schedule this year. It’s only a two hour trip for us and it’s an opportunity for us to see some tough kids we wouldn’t see anywhere else.”
With over 100 teams in attendance, there were plenty of tough kids. In fact, of the 11 returning New York state champions who competed, only four made the finals (three won) and one other finished third.
“I’m really looking forward to seeing this tournament get even stronger,” Green said. “If our presence can help it grow, that’s a good thing for New York wrestling.”
99 pounds: Jose Rodriguez (Wantagh) major dec Nick Barbaria (New Rochelle), 9-0
106 pounds: Kevin Jack (Danbury) decision Justin Cooksey (MacArthur), 7-4
113 pounds: Mark Raghunandan (Long Beach) won by disqualification over Dylan Realbuto (Somers)
120 pounds: Evan Botwin (Wyoming Seminary) major dec Sam Recco (Lyndonville), 9-0
126 pounds: Dom Malone (Wyoming Seminary) major dec Maverick Passaro (Eastport-South Manor), 8-0
132 pounds: Nick Kelley (Shenendehowa) dec Nick Mauriello (Hauppauge), 10-4
138 pounds: Quinton Murphy (Holley Central) dec James Dekrone (John Glenn), 6-2
145 pounds: Jim Kloc (Iroquois) dec Dale White (John Jay), 7-6
152 pounds: Dylan Palacio (Long Beach) dec Brian Realbuto (Somers), 8-5
160 pounds: Frank Affronti (Wayne) dec Aaron Dudley (Hudson Falls), 4-3
170 pounds: Eric Morris (Wyoming Seminary) dec Zach Zupan (Canastota), 4-0
182 pounds: Tony Lock (Pioneer) tech fall McZiggy Richards (Wingate), 15-0
195 pounds: Tony Fusco (Shenendehowa) dec Austyn Hayes (Phoenix), 8-2
220 pounds: AJ Vizcarrondo (Wyoming Seminary) major dec Kyle Stanton (Greene), 14-4
285 pounds: Michael Johnson (Wyoming Seminary) fall Cole Lampman (Shenendehowa), 1:40
For full results, please follow the link: